The Biden administration plans to scrap a Trump-era public health policy by May 23 that restricts illegal immigration — despite repeated warnings from Democratic lawmakers representing border states, according to multiple reports.
White House communications director Kate Bedingfield did not confirm the plans reported by CNN and Associated Press when journalists asked about it on Wednesday, and referred the matter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Title 42 is a public health guideline,” Bedingfield said. “It is not an immigration or migration enforcement measure.”
“We have every expectation that when the CDC finally decides it’s appropriate to lift Title 42, there will be an influx of people to the border,” Bedingfield added. “And so we do a lot of work to plan for that contingency.”
Title 42 has been in effect since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and allows border officials to immediately expel migrants attempting to cross the border without giving them a chance to apply for asylum. According to official estimates, the policy has been used more than 1.7 million times to deport migrants.
Lifting Title 42 would restore border officials’ obligations to accept asylum seekers until their claims can be assessed.
When President Biden took office, he vowed to roll back many immigration policies enacted by the Trump administration, including Title 42. However, multiple state and federal court rulings have upheld the policy.
Earlier this month, the DC Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the injunction could be upheld. However, it has resulted in officials having to detain more migrant families during screening to ensure they are not sent back to a country where their lives could be in danger.
On March 11, the CDC announced that Title 42 no longer applies to unaccompanied migrant children.
Democratic critics and activist groups have denounced Title 42 as inhumane. However, the expected rise in border-crossing attempts has led multiple Democratic lawmakers from Texas and Arizona to press for the injunction to be retained.
Texas Democratic Representatives Henry Cuellar and Vincente Gonzalez — along with more than a dozen Lone Star State Republicans — signed a Tuesday letter sent to Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas and Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, stating: warned that ending Title 42 would lead to “catastrophic consequences.”
“We understand that this legal authority is temporary and related to the public health emergency due to COVID-19, but DHS appears unprepared to deal with a likely unprecedented increase in detentions along the southwestern border,” the legislators wrote.
They noted that there has been no phasing out of the order, claiming that “its withdrawal will cause a sharp spike in the number of migrants DHS will have to fully process under Title 8.”
In fact, Axios reports that DHS estimates that 25,000 migrants are staying in Mexican shelters just south of the US border pending the end of Title 42. And some US intelligence estimates reportedly indicate an influx of more than 170,000 migrants could take place if the public health authority is lifted,” the letter continues.
“If the CDC were to revoke its Title 42 injunction at this point, border police facilities and local communities would be forced to accommodate at least double the current number of migrants, likely with catastrophic consequences.”
Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, both Democrats in Arizona, issued a similar warning last week, citing the expected impact on local communities and border security.
“Given the impact that changes to Title 42 could have on border communities, border security and migrants, we urge your government not to make any changes to the implementation of Title 42 until you are fully ready to implement a comprehensive plan and to coordinate that a safe, orderly and humane process at the border,” they said.
“Different sectors and border communities will require different resources, so the plan should be developed in consultation with local government leaders and community organizations, including those providing services to migrants. Such groups in Arizona have not been consulted about changes to Title 42. Until the administration conducts those kinds of consultations with local government leaders and nonprofits along the border, it is premature to consider changes to Title 42 authorities.”
This month, the White House said it would only revoke the injunction if the CDC determines that it should be dropped.
The Department of Homeland Security has recently made several attempts to bolster its manpower along the southern border, asking for help from the Pentagon, CBP and internal volunteers.
With the order being lifted, officials are bracing for a possible influx of up to 170,000 people, with up to 13,000 unaccompanied children crossing the border in May alone.
The number of border-crossing attempts for March is expected to be high, likely surpassing 165,000 in February as hundreds of Ukrainian and Russian refugees have joined migrants seeking to cross the southern border.
Brandon Judd, chairman of the National Border Council, warned Tuesday that removing Title 42 will put the US in “serious trouble”.
“Illegal immigration will explode even more if Title 42 disappears,” Judd told The Post, adding that 52% of all immigrants on the southern border were expelled directly under the order this month.